Select Board votes to disapprove of the city’s six special meeting terms of reference | Merrimack Valley
ANDOVER — The select council voted to disapprove the city’s six special meeting terms of reference while the school board voted to disapprove three of the six at a three-council meeting Thursday night.
The council, made up of members of the select council, finance committee and school committee, was told by City Solicitor Tom Urbelis that some of the terms would be “advisory only” and as such “non-binding”.
The six mandates will all appear to be voted on by residents at a combined annual and special municipal meeting, regardless of the recommendations of the select council or school committee. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 17, at 7 p.m., and will continue on Wednesday, May 18, if necessary. It will take place at the Collins Center at Andover High School.
Mike Meyers and a number of residents presented the terms of reference in a meeting that lasted over two hours.
The meeting began with a disagreement over the order of the items, which set a divisive tone for the rest of the evening. The argument involved that Section 1 (which relates to ARPA funding) be turned into Section 6 by the city.
The rest of the meeting was punctuated by interruptions and a dispute with a resident over whether or not attendees could video-record the session.
Meyers presented Paper 1, in which he called the city’s allocation of ARPA funding a “rushed process” and “devoid of community input.” As such, Meyers’ proposal “would authorize the Select Council to rescind the City Managers’ $10.9 million plan approved by the Select Council on March 3, 2022 and begin a new, transparent community planning process for the funds.” covid 19″.
Meyers was particularly critical of the city’s current plan to spend ARPA money on renovations to City Hall. City Manager Andrew Flanagan said this renovation and the Argilla Road water project reflected the wishes of residents, as the renovation had been approved at a previous town meeting and residents had responded positively to a survey on hydraulic infrastructure.
Board Chairman Chris Huntress said the renovations to City Hall would not be for offices, but would instead focus on the building’s public spaces.
City attorney Urbelis said the mandate would only be advisory.
Meyers also introduced Article 2, which he said would call for “annual posting of every contract or agreement without a call for tenders.” Meyers said the article was requested because certain contracts the city had with entities were not provided to the public.
Theresa Peznola, the city’s purchasing officer and insurance coordinator, said every contract over $10,000 comes with publicly available documentation. However, Peznola said, there was an exception for lawyers and labor relations firms as they are exempt from public tenders. Peznola said they would also not be able to provide contracts with entities hired by the city’s insurance company.
Section 3 of the mandate was introduced by Karen Kim and was described as prohibiting the city from entering into a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, except in cases where the NDA was requested by the person concerned.
The city manager entered into seven non-disclosure agreements with former employees and has since reached out to those individuals offering to release them from their current non-disclosure agreements.
Urbelis has also classified this mandate as advisory only.
The school committee and select council voted to disapprove of the article.
Mandate 4, which would implement a performance review of the superintendent and superintendent of the school, was presented by resident Steve Walther. Walther said the article would authorize the Select Board to contract with a firm chosen by the finance committee to conduct an anonymous review with city employees of the city manager and school superintendent.
Urbelis declared that this mandate would be invalid and unenforceable citing a conflict between the mandate and the contract of the general manager. Urbelis said that according to the contract, the city manager should be consulted during any review by the select committee. Urbelis said there would also be legal conflicts with a review by the superintendent.
Walther said there was a conflict of interest with the Urbelis hanging over the tenure, due to his position as city councilor and the closeness of that position to the city manager.
The school committee voted to disapprove the article, as did the select committee.
Holly Currier and Susan Greco introduced Section 5 of the Terms of Reference, which would provide a one-time $800 stipend to Educational Support Professionals. Currier said that while she was a teaching assistant, she would not receive it because she failed to meet certain stipulations of the article.
Currier said teaching assistants received low pay and little pandemic relief. Currier also said teacher aides have a high turnover rate, which makes it harder for other school employees to work and “harms students.”
Greco expressed frustration with the technicalities that hamper some of the mandates.
“We shouldn’t have to be lawyers or hire lawyers to find a way to represent the will of the people,” Greco said.
Urbelis said the mandate was not workable because under the teaching assistants’ collective bargaining contract, only their employers can negotiate salaries.
The school committee voted to disapprove the article.
The final article on the mandate was introduced by Mary Lyman and would create a fund for mental health and wellbeing and place $1 million in the fund, with that million taken from available money. Lyman gave a brief speech advocating for more mental health assistance in Andover, citing its importance in part because of the isolation caused by the pandemic.
Flanagan said the city’s operating budget includes $400,000 for mental health. Flanagan also said that of all funding sources, including a grant, just under $1 million will be allocated to mental health for the next fiscal year. Flanagan said the city tries not to fund services with free money because he said money can’t always be relied upon.